Developer: Wolfire Games
Publisher: Wolfire Games
Date Released: April 29th, 2013
Rating: N/A (Teen suggested)
Calling Receiver a game isn't doing it justice. It's more of an experimental experience, the product of a 7 Day FPS creation challenge developers Wolfire Games undertook. Receiver takes the premise of a shooter and complicates matters by forcing players to manually reload and handle each of the three handguns. The results are thrilling, frustrating, and unlike anything you've played. Receiver is a shooter that takes the shooting to whole new levels.
The premise of Receiver is that you are a 'receiver', someone who can listen to and understand messages left behind on tapedecks. The messages tell the story of a great evil called the Threat, and the Threat's attempts to kill humanity using the Mindkill. As a receiver, you're one of the last people capable of stopping the Threat from destroying humanity. Armed with only your gun, the tape player, and whatever little ammo or gear you're spawned with, you have one life to collect all 11 tapes. Cue action hero music.
Sadly, receivers aren't built like action heroes and can easily be killed by the game's two enemy types, turret drones and flying taser drones. Both will you kill you faster than you can squeeze the trigger so you have to tread carefully and place your shots on each drone's sensitive parts. If you recklessly shoot with abandon, you'll run out of the little ammo available to you.
Receiver further increases the difficulty by adding realistic handgun operations for the three weapons; the 1911, G17, and the revolver. Each gun has its own reload mechanism, magazine size, chamber-clearing, safety switch, and more. Knowing how each gun handles is absolutely essential as the keyboard is mapped to certain actions. For instance, the Z key is used for inserting bullets into a magazine. The magazine is then loaded in the gun. After that, you need to disable the safety (on the 1911), slide the bolt, chamber a round, and cock the hammer. Only then can you put the pesky drones down.
All of the keys and buttons used to operate the guns become muscle memory, but this takes time. It's incredibly difficult to find all 11 tapes as the drones move and shoot lightning quick. If you're out of ammo, you can kiss your sorry tail behind. Bullets and flashlights are occasionally scattered throughout the randomly generated levels, but you'll want to conserve as much as possible. Everything in Receiver can and will kill you if you don't shoot it first.
Given that Receiver was made in 7 days, the visuals are quite simplistic and blocky. Great attention was given to the weapon models while the environments and enemies don't show the same level of detail. I was never bothered by the lacking visuals as I was too focused on trying not to. The audio is decent, and there are few things more terrifying than the alerted chirp of a flying drone while you're walking up stairs.
Unfortunately, there are some balance problems that can cause extreme frustration. The first is that the flying drones will often appear out of nowhere and zap you from behind. If you're on stairs, which slow you down, you're likely going to do. And considering the game has permadeath and no save functions, dying from the same drone gets old quickly. Another problem is that there's no lean function. You can't peek around a corner and see if there's a turret, which often led me to my death when I entered a room. A single enemy bullet will kill you, so being able to scout an area first would be nice.
Thankfully, Receiver encourages pick-up-and-play once you've mastered the gun handling mechanics. Random level generation and spawn positioning ensures you're not playing the exact same game twice. Load times are brief and get you right back into the action should you fall prey to the drones. And believe me, you'll fall prey to the enemy quite often.
At a budget price of $5, Receiver is a fascinating case study and experiment in the use of real weapons handling in video games. It adds value to sidearms, typically thought of as last-resort weapons in most modern shooters. While the development time and budget price are evident in the production values, Receiver is absolutely worth every penny. It has a few noticeable flaws but can become an addicting reprieve from normal, boring FPSs.
+ Great gun mechanics
+ Very low price point
- Drones can be frustrating
- Some may not like the visuals
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
Receiver is a unique take on the FPS genre, and one that I hope Wolfire Games expands upon in a future release.